Body Ritual Among the Nacirema
What is the precise geographical location of this strange tribe, the
The Nacirema is a North American group living in the territory between
the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and
the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles. Little is known of their origin,
though tradition states that they came from the east.
What are the private and secret shrines of the Nacirema?
In the Nacirema, the belief is that the human body is ugly and that
its natural tendency is to debility and disease. Every household has
one or more shrines devoted to the hope that mans body will be changed
through the use of the powerful influences of ritual and ceremony.
Each family has at least on such shrine; the rituals associated with
it are not family ceremonies but are private and secret.
The rites are
normally only discussed with children, and then only during the period
when they are being initiated into these mysteries.
The focal point of the shrine is a box or chest which is built into
the wall. Many charms and magical potions without which no native
believes he could live. These preparations are secured from a variety
of specialized practitioners. The most powerful of these are the
medicine men, whose assistance must be rewarded with substantial
Who are the Nacirema’s holy-mouth-men?
In the hierarchy of magical practitioners, and below the medicine men
in prestige, are specialists whose designation is b.